A Bellingham man must serve 3 years in prison for the sex abuse of a young woman, a Whatcom County judge ruled this week.
The victim wrote a letter to her mother in May 2014, where she accused Richard Lee Starkey of molesting her from the ages of 8 to 11. She said he hadn’t abused her in a decade, but that a few days before she wrote the letter, he sexually assaulted her again.
Sheriff’s deputies spoke with the young woman that week in 2014. She reported that everyone else had gone to sleep after a bonfire on the preceding Sunday, when Starkey offered her a piggyback ride. She fell off of him to the ground, she reported: Starkey told her to stay there, and he sexually touched her.
She recalled telling him, “No,” three times.
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Starkey, 51, denied ever abusing the young woman, and told deputies he’s “not that type of guy,” according to charging papers. Later he told a Department of Corrections investigator that everyone had strong mixed drinks at the bonfire. He insisted he blacked out and couldn’t recall anything inappropriate happening. He noted he has back problems, so he doubted he had offered a piggyback ride.
Prosecutors charged Starkey with two counts of first-degree child molestation and one count of indecent liberties by forcible compulsion, a sex crime.
Starkey still maintains he’s not guilty. In March he entered an Alford plea – acknowledging there’s a high risk a jury would convict him, while asserting his innocence – to two counts of indecent liberties without force, where the victim could not consent because she was “mentally defective, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless,” as outlined in Washington state law. It’s considered a conviction. The charges of child molestation were dropped in the plea deal.
State sentencing guidelines suggested 31 to 41 months behind bars for Starkey, who had no felony record. Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis approved the plea deal this week, sentencing Starkey to 3 years in prison. He must register as a sex offender when he’s released.